Visual Communication

This client project involved students in Dr. Susan Hilligoss’ Visual Communication seminar. Students' were assigned a client project by representatives of the Clemson University Human Resources (HR) department who requested recruiting poster designs that would be displayed in the new HR building and on various electronic displays and social media. The purpose of the posters was to attract quality applicant's to Clemson University by highlighting a current employee with a portrait and an accompanying quote of the reason why he/she enjoys working at Clemson University. 

Poster Designs


Rhetorical Situation and Goals

The exigency of this project involved students in Dr. Susan Hilligoss’ Visual Communication seminar. We were assigned a client project for the Clemson University Human Resources (HR) department when representatives from HR visited our seminar and requested poster designs that would be displayed in their new building and on various HR electronic displays and social media.

The audience for the posters would be job applicants who would see the posters on the HR website and in the HR building lobby. The purpose of the design was to persuade “quality” applicants to consider employment with Clemson University by revealing the more intangible positive aspects of employment at Clemson by showcasing current faculty, staff and other university employees.

Constraints for the designs included the requirement for a portrait of the selected Clemson employee to be combined in some way with a quotation from the employee that expressed what they like about their work at Clemson. In addition, the design should be suitable for the HR staff, if desired, to be able to insert other portraits and quotes. Adherence to Clemson University brand policy regarding fonts, colors, typefaces and other design elements such as wordmarks and logos was required.

Development Process

My first objective was to procure a portrait of a Clemson employee. Using a contact, I gained access to Darlene Fuhst, Marketing and Public Relations Director, Clemson at the Falls, who agreed to meet me for a photographic session at Clemson at the Falls in Greenville, SC. That same semester I was involved in a grant proposal project for another seminar, so I combined a grant research trip to McClellanville, SC with the HR project by taking photographs of Economic Development Extension Agent, Harry Crissy, throughout the day while noting his remarks about his work. I photographically framed the photographs I made with the HR project in mind and left negative space on the left side of the image for the location of a quote or other text.

All versions of the designs are similar in that I kept the majority of the text to the left of the image. I followed design principles from Kimball and Hawkins’ Document Design: A Guide for Technical Communicators (2008) in the following ways: placing the Clemson wordmark, according to hierarchy, as the viewing entry point in the top of the area known as the “power zone,” an imaginary inverted L shape on the left border that is most noticeable to viewers; applying design symmetry and balance by the placing the text directly opposite the figures: aligning the “aspiration” slogan or the Crissy quotation on the left border of the power zone (126-131); adding drama with type, increasing the density of the first letter of the Crissy quote to catch the reader’s attention; adding value in both designs with bolded type (184).

The rhetorical power of the Crissy quotation was strong in comparison to the Fuhst quotation. The Crissy poster employs the three corners of the rhetorical triangle; logos, or reason for the argument; ethos, or the viewer’s impression of the speaker; and pathos, the effect of an emotional entreaty on the reader (14-15). Because Furst’s quote was weaker in rhetorical terms I chose to add the “aspiration” slogan to the design, and place her quote in a less powerful position with a more modest type size and weight. It then became a secondary rather than a primary design element. The “Be More Do More” slogan was the result of the rhetorical power of the Crissy quotation. Spending a day with him, and hearing all his plans for more economic improvements to the coastal communities in his area of responsibility, and seeing his relationships with the local fishermen and people in action, inspired me to create that slogan. I used the figure-ground relationship theory from Universal Principles of Design (2010) to place the Tiger Paw logo and the slogan on the bottom of the page. By placing the logo at the bottom of the page it becomes a “figure” rather than “ground.” Because “figures seem closer” and “ground is shapeless” the logo will be seen and remembered more (Lidwell et al. 96-97).   

Critical Reflection

In addition to demonstrating my competence in visual communication methods and strategies, my goal was to create a design that could be used by the Clemson HR department to promote Clemson University as a potential and desirable place for “quality” job applicants to work. My personal goal was to reveal aspects of employment at Clemson that were different than the traditional career choices at Clemson of teaching, agriculture and engineering. All the poster designs fulfill the client’s basic requirements. However, by placing text over an entire photograph rather than placing the photo in a smaller frame, the universality of the design is somewhat compromised. These are not true switch-and-go designs where an HR employee could easily change the image and text. Also, I did consider if I had succumbed to “horror vacui,” by filling much of the negative space (Lidwell et al. 128), but decided that the images and texts worked well enough together without looking cramped in appearance.

The employment missions and experiences of the two subjects are widely different in nature and situation. It is readily apparent that the longer time I spent with Harry Crissy, in comparison to the hour or so I spent with Darlene Fuhst, contributed greatly to the un-posed and realistic quality of the portrait on a boat, and the rhetorical style of the accompanying quote. He was speaking from his heart with no notion that I was planning to use his portrait and words in an HR poster, though I did tell him at a later time. This indicates that the approach and skill of the photographer and interviewer can greatly affect the results, as well as, other factors such as location, situation, time allowances and individual personality. Crissy naturally used ethos and pathos to define his purpose and method of approach as an economic development extension agent representing Clemson University. This makes the poster compelling and affecting. The HR department has used this poster on their website along with a few others from this assignment. In addition, the project itself has given the featured employees a voice and some degree of recognition.